New Delhi: Three members of the Indian hockey team that won the gold medal at the 1948 London Olympics - Leslie Claudius, Keshav Dutt and Jaswant Rajput - on Sunday hoped the 2012 squad can measure up to their standards.
The three Bengal men, who are well into their late 80s, still keenly follow the national team's performance and are far from being impressed.
The trio, along with 23 other Olympic gold medallists, was felicitated by Hockey India (HI) with a one-time payment of Rs. 2 lakh each on Sunday for their contribution to the game. Of the 34 honoured, 26 were present at the function.
Claudius, who has three gold medals and a silver, recalled the olden days, especially the 1948 Olympics. "It was an important Olympics since it was being held after 12 years due to the second world war. But it was an easy tournament for us. The only time we were tested were in the semi-final against the Netherlands but we still won it 2-1. The final against England was also easy as we beat them 4-0," Claudius said.
Claudius said that the game has much changed since then. "Today the game has become quick and players are also bigger. In our generation the players were shorter but we still got away because the game was skill based. But now the game has become faster and physical as well. This time there are 6-7 strong teams in the tournament and I would be eager to see how India performs."
Dutt said playing Olympics is not an easy task and asked the players not to go just for the sake of participation. "Every time we participated we wanted to make an impact. We played for the gold. Olympics is not an easy task. There is a lot of responsibility when you represent the country. The players must me made aware of this sense of responsibility," he said.
Asked if he has seen the current batch playing, Dutt said: "I haven't seen the current crop of players playing much but I have heard a lot about them. Playing European teams in Europe will be difficult."
Rajput sees a bright future in Indian hockey. "It pains us to see how the standards of Indian hockey has fallen. But now I can only see a bright future for the Indian team. The boys have worked hard and they need our blessings and support for the Olympics. It has been long since India have won a gold medal. The country is thirsty for a gold medal," he said.